07/16/2008: "LETTERS ON BC SEWAGE"
The 15 July 2008 Victoria Times Colonist reported that Victoria's sewage disposal has become a potential political issue in the San Juans as it has done here. It is solely a political issue. There are no pressing scientific or engineering reasons (other than possible energy recovery) to object to our current treatment- discharge of finely screened effluent into deep, cold, fast flowing, well oxygenated, saline water, a natural primary treatment system. Combined with current and effective point source controls, the system is effective and adequate and does not pose a threat to the environment. Any solid waste appearing on San Juan beaches does not come from the Victoria sewage system, but probably from local sources, possibly from boaters.
Political perception based on ill-informed public opinion rather than science and engineering frequently determines the system of sewage treatment. Through the 1980s, some 32 Washington State sewage treatment plants in Puget Sound and in Juan de Fuca Strait (Port Angeles across from Victoria) applied tro the Environmental Protection Agency for discharge waivers under Section 301(h) of the US Federal Clean Water Act. The waivers would have permitted less stringent treatment where local conditions allowed. All petitions were denied, not on scientific grounds , but purely on a regulatory basis. Politics and bureaucracy, not science.
San Juan residents may be assured, sewage treatment is coming to Victoria. Our politicians scent votes in our sewage, they love spending money, and they love photo ops. However, in the mean time, don't worry about the sewage it's not doing any harm. Frankly, the whole fuss is a load of crap. After all, it's politics.
Chemistry Professor Emeritus
Royal Roads Military College
An article appeared in the Times Colonist, " Victoria's sewage raising a stink on San Juans" (July 15th). While I find it a bit of a stretch to assert that Victoria's sewage is arriving on your shores, as a Victoria resident, I wholeheartedly agree with the import of your article.
As you may be aware, our Premier Campbell originally mandated that Victoria provide secondary treatment for it's effluent. However following research investigations in Sweden , firstly privately by a local engineer and subsequently by representatives of both the Victoria Regional District comprising a number of Municipalities and The Provincial Government, it appears that there is agreement that we should provide the latest in tertiary treatment, which will virtually remove all offensive sewage material from entering the Juan de Fuca Straits, and will be far superior to secondary treatment.
This will involve the establishment of numerous small plants, scattered throughout the greater Victoria area. The planning and execution of this project is obviously very complex, and as a lay person, I fully understand that it will be several years before completion.
I believe that in spite of the time lapse this is a good decision and one that will not be deflected by groups who have a " do nothing " point of view. While there are obviously more serious forms of pollution of our waters, the health of the ocean is critical to it's many inhabitants.
I'm a little confused by the County Council candidates saying "there's nothing we can do" about Victoria's/B.C.'s raw sewage discharge.
1. We can ask our Congressional representatives -- 2 Senators and our Representative -- to lobby our State Department to intercede with the Canadians concerning this issue. We can also ask our state representatives to lobby our Congressional representatives in the same vein. We do have an Embassy and Consulates in Canada, don't we? It wouldn't be the first time a squeaky wheel got some grease.
2. We can make this a state gubnatorial election issue by asking the Governor to issue an executive order directing the Washington State ferries NOT to sail to B.C. during the tourist season; this would have a direct economic impact on Victoria and B.C. It also would have a more tangible sub-benefit of providing an extra ferry for service in the San Juans or in the ferry system at-large, during a time when we're short 4 ferries.
3. Provided we can PROVE that we have been damaged by the discharge of raw sewage, we can sue the Victoria/B.C. government in a U.S. Court. It will be expensive and take years, but probably not longer than the current Canadian time-table of 2016. U.S. citizens have in the past sued the Cuban government in U.S. courts and have attached Cuban assets within the United States, so this idea is not so far-fetched as it might first appear. We obviously can also sue them in a Canadian court, if we choose. Proving "damage" is the key, however -- not merely proving "disgust."
4. International Law is a complicated but fascinating subject. Historically around the world, it is amazing what has from time-to-time been accomplished via law suits across international borders. Rather than simply responding "nothing can be done," at least one of the council candidates ought to be saying "we should do a little research and see what can be done..."
5. There may already be a bi-lateral (Canada and the U.S.) or multi-lateral treaty (think NAFTA here) forbidding one country from allow noxious substances from industry or government to affect a neighboring country. It doesn't take too much of a stretch to define "noxious" as including untreated sewage
San Juan Island
I have just read the article in the Victoria Times Colonist regarding where your local election candidates were questioned on the sewage problems of Victoria and Vancouver.
I would like you to know that some of us Canadians also feel the same way. To tis end I have attached a copy of a letter I sent to the Globe and Mail newspaper over the very same topic. It appears to have fallen on deaf ears. However, feel free to quote any part of it if it will be of use to you.
I just thought you would appreciate other people having the same concerns.
Patrick Brathour - Bureau Chief
Globe and Mail,
750 Burrard Street, Suite 300
2010 Winter Olympic Host - B.C.’s Deteriorating Public Health Protection!
Dear Mr. Brathour,
Please take a moment and read the enclosed material as it throws light on some very questionable records for British Columbia. What started out to be a relatively insignificant incident in the larger scheme of things (though not for me personally - I own a $25,000 condemned, failed new septic system), now looks to be a part of a very large environmental pollution problem.
British Columbia - Canada’s winter Olympics host has a slew of reports that they would not like to be known. How safe is British Columbia with this sort of track record? What does it take for another polio epidemic to start or get established?
British Columbia likes to portray itself as the perfect pristine environment - “the best place on Earth”, as being the perfect place to hold the winter Olympic games. What British Columbia does not do is tell the world about their very questionable environmental record - which will eventually lead to this province becoming a very real public health concern. A public health concern that the world should know about given that a very large number of overseas visitors will be attending for the Olympic games and very little will be done to address the problem by the games due date. These visitors will continue to visit after the games and will continue to add further to the already overloaded sewerage problem. These visitors will only compound the situation and make it worse - please read the enclosed material and you will see why.
British Columbia’s Provincial Government (Ministry of Health, Ministry of Environment) is down playing the local situation and acting as if there are no serious problems. The apparent lack of concern by many people including the Provincial and Federal governments (in law and regulation enforcement) as noted in the Vancouver Sun story, shows just how bad the situation has become - and it will continue to grow while the governments of the day do nothing. Serious environmental damage is also being caused by outdated forestry practices, increase in mining, increased oil exploration etc. Sea, lake, river and water pollution in general, continues to be a major health concern. From local leaking septic systems contaminating ground water, to cities like Vancouver and Victoria pumping raw sewage out to sea. Most of the serious pollution in this province is preventable if the government is interested enough to be concerned and get involved. The government is supposed to ensure “Public Health Protection” but instead, it is illegally gambling with the well being of all British Columbians by failing to enforce the rules to prevent pollution.
I would ask that you (Globe and Mail newspaper) give some consideration to this problem as there needs to be full public awareness before things get out of hand. Public awareness will encourage/demand the government(s) to take action and do something to prevent serious, irreversible damage.
Finally, given that 2008 is the United Nations International Year of Sanitation, British Columbia’s record so far has been a disgrace and an embarrassment for Canada.
Encl. Vancouver Sun Story
Victoria Times Colonist Story
PG Citizen Story - J. Wood
- D. Redford
Coalition Ministerial Address
Canada Wide Survey
Nathan Cullen MP - letter to Victoria
Letter to George Abbott 220508